I own a motorcycle.

It's been my summer ride for nearly 4 years now. I've put nearly 10000 miles on it since I bought it, used, in late 2009. Since it was an 1982 model year machine, I counted myself lucky.

In all that time, I haven't paid much attention to the drive chain. Except for lubricating it every month or two.

Last fall, I took it in to get the front tire swapped out. The maintenance man at the shop asked me how old the chain was. I shrugged. He recommended replacement. It was far looser than it ought to be, and there was too much slack to fix it by bringing in the tensioner.

I thanked him, and rode the machine home--gingerly. I then planned to get the chain and sprockets replaced this Spring.

Except...it's a little hard to get a repair shop to make an appointment. Because the machine is from 1982.

Kind of ironic, since the shop that I drove the motorcycle to for front-tire replacement didn't bat an eye when I rode it in. But they said, over the phone, that it was too old for them to work on.

However, the task of swapping out a chain and sprockets is much more involved than the task of replacing the tire on the front wheel.

And it is highly likely that this repair shop regularly gets calls from people who've left a motorcycle unused in their garage for a decade...and then want it fixed up. They have no idea how many bolts might break while they take things apart, nor do they have any idea of the condition of the motorcycle that I'm talking to them about on the phone.

Except now I have to chase down a repairman who will do this job. Because I don't quite feel up to the job of doing a complete chain-and-sprocket replacement myself.



A few months ago, I began attempting to learn a new music instrument.

Bass guitar is an odd instrument. Like the electric guitar, it's hard to practice without an amplifier. Unlike an electric, it is fairly hard to play more than one note at a time.

It's also an instrument that is noticed, but not directly, when it is part of a larger musical ensemble.

Anyway, I find the combination of rhythm and tone available to be alluring.

One odd pleasure: I found a way to pipe YouTube videos through to my TV and the big surround-sound system attached to it. And if I know the song, I can figure out how to play a bass-line along with the recorded music.

Sometimes, it's songs like a Bob Seger classic, Old Time Rock'n'Roll.

After a few attempts, I realized that Bob Seger had used a fairly simple three-chord progression. It had lots of room for walk-downs between changes, and a pattern that seemed familiar.

After a few listens through, it suddenly hit me. The pattern is close to, but not exactly, a classic 12-bar blues riff. The blues riff would be something like this, where each vertical line represents one measure of music.
| E | " | " | " | A | " | E | " | B | " | E | B |
The riff used by Bob Seger is more like this. I guess the drop-to-root chord, followed by return-to-dominant-chord, was what reminded me of the old blues standard.
| E | " | " | " | A | " | " | " | B | " | " | " | E | " | B | " |
Come to think of it, I've probably heard dozens of songs that ran with the simple root/subdominant/dominant progression.

One thing that surprises me: this guy was singing about Old Time Rock...before I was born. Which makes it recursive: an old song that reminisces about older songs.


Weekend Reading: Human action and Divine provision

Last year, I spent a little effort reviewing the Christian and Hebrew scriptures. Somewhere along the way, that project (and blogging in general) dropped off.

Earlier parts of this series: creation, childhood, and loss-of-innocence. Then worship, jealosy and violence. Followed by a giant reset. Then a new beginning, followed by a special covenant.

Abram, nomadic herder of sheep, occasional leader in regional wars, is childless. Yet the great promise given to him by his Creator involved his descendants. He and his wife Sarai follow a pattern apparently known to (and possible approved by) the culture that he lived in: elevate one of the slave women to concubine, and have a child by her.

The concubine, named Hagar, conceives a child. Intra-camp trouble results between Hagar and Sarai, leading to Hagar leaving.

Hagar has a meeting with God. It is a strangely short meeting, yet Hagar learns something: the powerful being that Abram worships sees her, the cast-away servant girl. This realization is written into history in the name of her son: Ishmael, meaning "God who listens."

She returns to Abram.

It's a strange story, one that could almost be thrown aside as unimportant. Ishmael and his descendants will not be seen in many places later in the Hebrew narratives.

Even in these characters who are not part of the main story, we see some evidence of care and concern of the Creator for individuals.

And there's some foreboding of future events: God provides. Even when His followers misunderstand the how and why of the fulfillment of promise, and try to do things by themselves, He sees and has pity.


Escaped Slave

Today is St. Patrick's Day, a celebration of the one of the most-famous escaped slaves in history.

He's much better known for spreading Christianity in a pagan land. And for driving snakes out of Ireland. (Was that story symbolic of a clash with a snake-worshiping group of Druids? A symbolic reference to evil spirits of some kind? Or just a folk tale that developed out of imagination?)

Patrick's long association with Ireland that nation during the struggle for independence.

Thus, a Latin-speaking Briton born in Wales became a symbol of Ireland.


Essential skills?

I don't see "recompile the Linux kernel on your system" on this list. Or even "dual-boot a Windows machine with Linux."

Though both are a little hard to describe in the format given there.

Still, it's a list of useful skills and tools. Though it's oddly jumbled. (Why do "shine shoes" and "perform a perfect push-up" appear before "replace an electrical switch"? Why does "survive a tire blowout" show up in the middle of the series, but "jump start a car" show up at the end? Jump-starting is a much more common need than is surviving a blowout.)

Of the skills and tools listed, I think I've performed, or at least learned the rudiments of half of them. Most of the electrical, home-repair, or vehicle-related items I've learned from my father. A few others I've learned on my own.



A person attempting to read the entire U.S. Tax Code faces a daunting task.

Much more daunting than attempting to read the entirety of the Christian Scripture, for instance.

Admittedly, most citizens of the U.S. are in a category which allows the taxpayer to read the instructions for Form 1040, followed by the instructions for Schedule A and a handful of related documents...or to trust the computer wizards who created TurboTax.

Still, there can be surprises for people who aren't well-versed in the tax code.

Gifts, inheritance, basis points, self-employment taxes, married-filing-separately or married-filing-jointly, ...and the tax-that-was-not-called-a-tax for people who fail to purchase health insurance.

It's a mess.

I'll keep on reading the Bible. And I'll try to keep an eye on the tax code.

But I'll note that it's very hard for mis-interpretation of the Bible to lead to jail terms and hefty fines.

And that if I get bad advice from a tax preparer or an employee of the Internal Revenue Service's help-desk, I am considered at fault.


Hard to explain that one

As seen on "Survive the Streets" on Facebook:

I know that by now all of you have heard about the 18-month old girl that was rescued from an overturned vehicle after fourteen hours in freezing temps. Now, all four officers involved with the discovery have gone on record saying they heard a woman softly calling for help. The child was unconscious and the child's mother had already passed. There was no one nearby.
The story has been reported in many places. (Link to a local news story.)

This is one of those stories that defy explanation. Several different people heard a call for help, but the stricken infant did not make the call. And the deceased adult in the car didn't cry out.

What explanation should be preferred?

If a spontaneous mass hallucination led to a rescued child, is that not a miracle?

If a Divinely-ordained voice mimicked the sound of a woman in need of help, is that not a miracle?

For some reason, I'm reminded of a quote from Hamlet. "There are more things in Heaven and on Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophies."


Daylight Savings

A couple days late, maybe... but still worth a few words.

The practice of artifically moving the "Local Time" backwards or forwards is odd.

I had no idea of the reason, until I found a chart like this one (sourced from here).

Locally, under Daylight Savings, sunrise comes between 0530 and 0600 in June. Sunset comes between 2130 and 2200. (That 9:30 PM and 10:00 PM to people who don't use 24-hour clocks.)

Without Daylight Savings, sunrise would come before 0500 in the morning in June!

I think that the American culture has decided that it is better to tinker with clocks so that sunrise is after 0500 in the morning. Even if the price is long, late summer evenings in June. And if there is a lot of hassle and dislocation during one week of Spring and one week of Fall.


Winter not yet gone

A few days ago, I was expecting warmer weather.

For the first week of March, the local area has gotten a mix of snow and freezing rain, and lots of cold. The freezing rain left an beautifully-smooth layer of ice on top of the snow.

The weather predictions say that thawing is coming this weekend. We'll see what happens.


Still winter?

One month ago, while traveling to a party involving some sort of football-game championship, I saw a snowmobile. On 8 Mile road. (I could say of movie fame...but it wasn't the section of 8 Mile that separates Detroit from northern suburbs. I was further west, where the road separates Wayne County suburbs from Oakland County suburbs.)

It was a very snowy day, and the Monday that followed was peppered with school closures due to snow.

About a week after that, a temporary warm spell had appeared. While most of the snow was present, it was obviously melting. I even saw a motorcycle on the road one afternoon.

Then the weather snapped back to cold. And remained cold. To produce an average-temperature-for-February lower than most years since the 1880s.

Almost as if the weather were watching the calendar, things began warming up for the first day of March.

But it still looks like winter outside. And the snow will likely remain on the ground until late March.